7 – 4 Species is an initiative run by Paintgun.io.
We believe that companies should be doing more to support grassroots organisations and individuals dedicating their lives to protecting the planet and the species that inhabit it. We have therefore dedicated 7%of our company revenue to go towards sponsoring an individual or organisation that is doing something amazing for the planet and the species! We want to support the people really making a difference! This could be anything from climate activists to a group advocating for the rights for the homeless or even someone making slippers out of recycled bottles!
Paintgun will be donating £1000 to a group or individual every month!
We love capturing the intimate moments in life, where people are connecting with the planet and one another. So all we ask of our collaborators is that they use our camera to capture some of their favourite moments in their work for us to share with the world!
If you would like to apply to be part of our 7–4 Species initiative click apply at the top of the page!
After the monthly £1000, the rest of the 7% will go towards running the initiative and creating a pot so we can bring all these projects and people together in 2020. We are also working to publish and reduce our carbon footprint and create tools for other remote working companies to do the same, so stay tuned!
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Each month we commit 7% of Paintgun company revenue to helping the planet and the species that inhabit it. As part of the initiative, each month we donate £1000 to our favourite individuals or groups making a difference in this world. They take our camera and tell their story.
Joshua Coombes: Do Something for Nothing
Joshua Coombes is the founder of Do Something For Nothing. In Josh’s words “Do Something For Nothing encourages, inspires and connects everyday people to use their time or skills to positively impact other people’s lives. It is about trying to realise that charity can look a lot different. You can use the things you enjoy and that you love to go out there and make an impact so take what you will from that.
View Joshua's Story
Joshua Coombes interviewed by Richard Ashton
Joshua Coombes: My day to day is... If I am not going out and giving haircuts for people experiencing homelessness it is writing about their stories and putting them out into the world. Storytelling really is what I do but on different platforms, whether that is putting out photos or videos or exhibitions with my friend Jamie Morrison. I am usually either out on the street walking around with my backpack which has the salon and my camera in it or, I am sat anywhere in the world with my laptop and a paper and pen doing the rest of it.
Richard Ashton: How do you explain the amazing work you do?
JC: For me it is not all that amazing, but it is something that is inherent. I feel that when I go out and do what I do I’m tapping to some part of me that needs to be accessed. I think it is a part of all of us that needs to be accessed. It is a common connection with the people around you, whether it is the people you know well and you are close to or whether it is strangers. I think we as humans have lost a little bit of that in the digital age and it is about remembering that whether you are introverted or extraverted, or whether you are someone who likes socialising or not we all have interpersonal skills with one another that, I believe, we are hardwired for. So I guess in short for me this is my version of that. We all will find different ways of getting that in our life. But for me, going out and doing what I do is a way for me to connect to that part of myself through other people.
RA: How did it all start?
JC: It started 4 years ago in London, I had my backpack on me and I was on the way to a clients house to cut their hair and make some more cash after work. I worked at a salon at the time, and I didn’t end up making it there because I met someone on the street. You know I would always buy a coffee or buy a sandwich or do whatever I could, but it never normally promoted more than a quick conversation. At the time it just felt like a good idea to offer someone a haircut.
RA: With Do something for Nothing, how do you encourage people to join the movement?
JC: Do something for nothing runs hopefully by itself in a sense, which is to throw these stories out there and the messages that I put out there. It is amazing to see the way people take this on, inspired in their own way. So I run the logistics of the day to keep medium on what I do, which is to give talks and the educational side of it, like going into schools and talking about how we can use social media for real connections, even though of course it is a digital platform but it is about trying to flood it with real actions that actually inspire people.
The way it has worked is through the hashtag. It has started to grow through other people getting involved with other skills and actions and the hope is it continues to do that. There are definitely ways I want to solidify this more for the future and build a team but to be honest the last four years I have been doing this, it is actually moving into another chapter now. The last four years I have really been running around , traveling a lot, meeting new people. Sort of putting a net around these amazing other humans that I have met in the world which have become the core members of this.
RA: As a species, how do you think we can better understand what other people are going through?
JC: I believe most of us have that understanding as I mentioned before, as human beings to empathise with one another. I think we put a lot of questions and barriers and roadblocks between us and other people which get in the way of genuine interactions. I think it is normal. The reason why I think; how often is it that we actually look into one another’s eyes and sort of really try to be open for them each day. We look different and we seem very different, and of course we are culturally and that is beautiful, but I just think generally most of us have that understanding of one another already and I think it is about trying to remove all those layers we put before that, and try and recognise what is going on underneath. Which is that most human beings are more similar than we are told, and that we operate in similar ways. But it is rare that we get the chance to recognise that and be present with one another.
RA: What are the biggest learnings you take from the meetings you have with people?
JC: My biggest learnings are that humans can be all kinds of things. I talk to people who have fallen from grace, I talk to people who have made bad decisions and who have made mistakes. I talk to people from all walks of life. It is a very learning experience because I have done this in a lot of different countries, and usually you are meeting humans who are in a position that is quite different to most other people wandering around a city. Most of the time I learn from people because there are some truths and really profound words that I hear from people that teach me a lot, not just about their life but life in general. It is why I continue doing what I do. I mean obviously it’s to help someone, like with a haircut which can help someone in a small way by providing them with all those things you might imagine, maybe more confidence, their dignity, that kind of thing. But to be honest it’s really that that keeps me going back, because I enjoy going out there and learning about people, and hopefully in the conversation with the haircut we learn about each other in some way.
RA: Thanks for using the disposable camera, how did you choose to use the camera?
JC: The disposable camera was fun, I just bought it from a Boots in London Bridge and to be honest the light wasn’t great, it was getting dark. Near David’s spot in London Bridge it was getting dark already and I was thinking to myself the great thing about these is that they have an automatic flash so I just used that and it worked well. I was really happy, it was a lot of fun to use it. I am usually using my iphone or digital camera. It was way more fun, it made me feel like a kid again. I always used to buy disposables, and I loved seeing what came out of that.
RA: Who are you with?
JC: I am with David. David is a very special person to me. I first met him about 2 years ago. I must have cut his hair 6 or 7 times, maybe 8 times. He is someone I speak to on the phone, I call up when i’m away from the UK and I check in on him. He is a real character and a genuinely loving caring person. We met randomly one day and have kept in touch ever since.
RA: Can you tell me a bit about him?
JC: David is somebody who says good morning to every person, every single person. He is known as the good morning man, he says. He is up at 6am outside London Bridge station saying good morning sir, good morning madam, good morning to the kids. People genuinely go up to him and say ‘you know what, you really brighten up my day. I like walking past here, because every morning you are saying good morning.’ He really builds relationships with people because his smile is infectious. To quote him, he said to me once ‘a smile is the most contagious thing in the world and when you smile at someone they can’t help but smile back’ and I really believe that. It is really rare that when you smile at someone they don’t smile back. His optimism always inspires me, it doesn’t matter how rough his situation is, he really keeps that.
Just to go into his story slightly without getting too deep, obviously I know a lot about this person, but just to not give it all completely, because it is personal. There was an accident and it was tragic, basically David lost someone in his family and it made him very depressed. He had a whole other life, he had his own business and had family and that’s another life now. Through a spiral of events he ended up becoming depressed and ended up on the streets. He still talks to some people in his family, he has kids. David is in a place where he will openly say he didn’t realise where he was going to get to where he got to now. But it is very hard to get out of it for certain reasons. He’s been in and out of hostels and I have tried to help in different ways. I always keep in touch with him, he has become a friend. He is someone I am invested in. I hope we can transition him out of that in the future.
RA: His belongings were photographed, did you have a conversation behind the reasoning for this?
JC: David took all the photos that aren’t of him, which is really beautiful. There is one of both of us which a stranger took walking by. The pictures of David’s belongings — basically I told him about the project and all the reasons why I had the camera and he was really into it, it was really beautiful man. I said look, I’m going to give you the camera and use as many photos as you want on whatever you want. And he started getting out his belongings, I didn’t prompt him to do that and he started taking photos of the different things in his bag, and then he even got on the floor, he was actually laying down. He took one from a low perspective, he tried to take one, it might be a blurred one, he tried to take one laying on the floor of the Shard. Because David’s sits right underneath the Shard. Well you can see it an amazing juxtaposition, being on the street there is quite an experience. You have one of the tallest buildings in London and such a busy station, and guy’s hospital near by — where David was born. It is just a mad area and he is right on the street there. So he was trying to get some of the surrounding areas of the city but I don’t think they came out. But his belongings are just him doing his thing and it was really beautiful to watch. I was happy to see that.
RA: Some shots were taken from the floor/ low perspective, what was the conversation around these shots?
JC: Those low perspective shots, there wasn’t a conversation but I think they represent the footsteps going by. I sometimes myself try and take some of those shots because I believe it is a nice way to see — actually being sat on the street. One thing i’ll mention just stemming slightly from that question. It is just such an interesting thing, that even sitting down with someone who is living on the street for just 5 minutes. When you actually sit down and watch the world with them it really does give you a sense of the isolation of thousands of footsteps walking past and none really noticing you depending on the person. It can be quite an experience to do that and I hope those shots are really reflective of that.
RA: Your before and after shots are so powerful, how do the people you photograph feel or reflect when they seem themselves?
JC: I think the before and after for me — actually you know what my favourite part about them is actually something I don’t think many people notice, but its’ not actually the haircut. I know initially that’s of course a great way to show the before and after and that’s why I started doing those, but it is actually peoples faces and eyes. I really love eyes, and peoples faces and their skin too. My favourite before and after shots have not been because of this big smile or big transformation, but there has been a couple, or a few over the years, where peoples wrinkles on their face, like their actual lines on their face were just replaced. Like their face is genuinely relaxed and softened. The reason I love that is not because of me intervening there, I’m not the hero in this story, this is a representation of how two humans who are strangers can become something closer than not strangers in like an hour. That human touch and that contact is a real thing, it is beneficial, it relaxes you it makes you feel that someone gives a shit about you. And I think that can happen between two people anywhere.
With the haircut specifically of course it is a great transformation, of course people see someone they have not recognised for a while but you know sometimes it’s just maintenance and it’s just a way to hangout and have a conversation.
RA: You travel around the world carrying out the work you do, how has this influenced and effected you as a person?
JC: I travel a lot doing what I do and it has been a beautiful 3 or 4 years doing that. I have cut hair on the street in I don’t know how many different countries. From Europe to South America, a lot in North America and in India, Australia a couple of times. The way I do that is maybe a good way to funnel another answer into this question which is I have had to work out how to keep doing this. I have had to be constantly with my foot on the pedal to keep putting these messages out there, to create collaborations with different brands — this has been great and also giving talks about this which helps me continue to do what I do. So I have had to keep working this out. The travel has been fascinating because of course you get to meet different people around the world and I think it has affected me because I have always enjoyed travelling to places when I was younger — I was in a band and just travelled a lot in general. Since I have been doing it this way though it has been amazing because I used to try and tick boxes when I was in a new place, to see all the different elements of a city or whether if I was somewhere more rural I would have ideas of what I wanted to complete.
But now it is way more simple, I talk to people on the street and my expectations are different. It is like if i make a cool connection with someone, I learn about the place through that person.
Being really honest too, 2020 is going to be a brand new approach. I have been traveling a lot and I have definitely forgotten about my well being when out doing this and doing that. Burnout is very real and I experienced that recently and now I’m looking ahead to 2020 and even though the travel is amazing there is something about staying still which is beautiful too. Anyway i’m going off on one but essentially it has been amazing to learn about different people in different countries but I think sometimes sticking around is great also.
RA: What are your plans for this year?
JC: Plans for 2020 are to end this chapter that has been the last 4 years of my life and Do Something for Nothing. Rather than keep running around from place to place, I think it is time to pause because there is a lot you can get done when you reflect. I want to put together more of these art shows that I have been doing and do things that are more tangible. In short there is a lot I have been doing that goes out on social media and it has been a great experience in real life for me — these moments I have with people and telling their stories online. I am really interested in finding new ways of storytelling, dissolving some of these stigmas and stereotypes to get us to better understand one another. As I mentioned, to recognise that inherent connection we can actually have with one another. There is an art exhibition I put on called Light and Noise. It’s a multimedia art exhibition I run with my friend Jamie Morrison, who is a visual artist based in London. We have been friends for years and years, and about 2 years ago we began this show in Skid Row in LA. It’s purpose was to exemplify the lives of people living on the street, through multimedia art. Jamie paints portraits of people whether I give a haircut or not, he takes a photo and he has painted these amazing portraits. We have have about 7 or 8 different shows in as many countries. What started in LA, we have been to London and all over Europe. We just had one in Melbourne, that is why I just came out here to Australia. Definitely planning more of those in 2020 and am thinking about more events and tangible spaces to try and get this message across. I don’t think social media is dying, but we have such a short attention span that it doesn’t breed for the kind of conversation that is required to get this message across. I think you need a longer form so I am thinking about more ways of doing things in real life.